Pittsburgh Penguins MVPs

  • Presented by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and the Grable Foundation


  • NOMINATIONS DUE BY JANUARY 26, 2024

    The Most Valuable Principal (MVP) program will honor 15 principals from any school across Allegheny County. Principals who demonstrate an innovative approach to learning, a continuous drive for excellence, and a passion for creating successful systems for their students to thrive and grow will be recognized.  

    Nominations are due by 11:59 p.m. on 1/26/24.

    Penguins MVP recipients will win: 

    • Pens prize pack
    • Customized Pens jersey
    • $1,000 donation to the principal's school 
    • Two (2) tickets to cheer on the Pittsburgh Penguins

    Learn more


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  • Penguins MVP

    Celebrating the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2023 Most Valued Principals

    Welcome to the MVP Hall of Fame! We are sharing profiles of our most recent honorees as we lead up to the January 26 nomination deadline for the 2024 Class of Pittsburgh Penguins MVPs.


     

  • Penguins MVP Joe Villani Principal of Bethel Park High School Selected as a 2002 Pittsburgh Penguins Most Valued Principal

    Joe Villania
    Principal of Bethel Park High School
    Bethel Park School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    Bethel Park High School is a special place due to the rigorous instruction, student programs, and most importantly, the people! We are constantly seeking new ways to not only better student achievement but also put a focus on the whole student experience. The leadership philosophy that guides the BPHS is a coaching model intended to assist people in shattering any of their perceived limitations to reach new heights they previously thought were unobtainable. This is accomplished through teamwork and working collectively to accomplish more!

    What do you love about being a principal?
    Being a principal is so rewarding and you get to impact the lives of so many. Each day is different and brings new opportunities to learn, create, and grow. As a principal, it is a great feeling to see the successes of students and staff after months and years of hard work to get to that moment. I am so grateful for all the amazing individuals who support me, the students, and make Bethel Park High School such a special place!

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    The future of education is bright and ever-evolving. Students today are resilient, hardworking, and are seeking new ways to make an impact on the world. Topics and specialties that would not typically be taught until college have now made their way to K-12 schooling. These shifts have led to higher levels of learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Daily, I witness students challenging themselves with rigorous coursework, excelling in numerous activities, and demonstrating high levels of caring and compassion for others. Looking at their abilities and the innovation that is happening in education, the future is bright and exciting for everyone involved!.


     

  • Pittsburgh Penguins MVP Natasha Dirda, Former Principal of North Allegheny HS

    Natasha Dirda
    Former Principal of North Allegheny High School
    North Allegheny School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    North Allegheny's mission is to prepare all students for success in a changing world. I have the honor and privilege of working with students at North Allegheny Senior High School during the last stop of their K-12 educational journey. NASH consists of juniors and seniors and our staff has the unique opportunity of providing authentic/engaging experiences that extend well beyond the classroom environment. Our NASH staff always goes above and beyond to provide all students with authentic experiences both in and out of the classroom! Our NASH identity and focus is to deeply love and care for each and every student while relentlessly pursuing excellence in all that we do. This can be seen, felt, and heard throughout our school community!

    What do you love about being a principal?
    Being a high school principal is truly the best job in the world! Every single day I witness amazing things happen. Whether it is a teacher implementing an instructional strategy that provides students with a “light bulb” moment, to a student uplifting a peer through a challenging time or situation. Every single day I get to observe our students as they excel in academics, athletics, arts, and activities while they continue to become the best versions of themselves.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    The opportunities after high school for today’s students are endless! Our job is to instill the importance of finding one’s passion and creating spaces where students can explore, create, and pursue their interests. Unique pathways are available for all of our students to find success and fulfillment. By creating safe and supportive learning environments, we are able to support each individual student as they pursue the endless possibilities of their future.

    Editor's Note: Natasha Dirda joined South Fayette Township School District as its new high school principal in January 2024.


     

  • Penguins MVP David Radcliffe, Principal of Brentwood Middle School

    David Radcliffe
    Principal of Brentwood Middle School
    Brentwood Borough School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    One of the best things about our school is the positive relationships that exist between our students and staff. The staff at Brentwood Middle School cares a great deal about the academic, social, and personal growth of each student. They are willing to go to great lengths in order to help our students succeed in school and reach their personal goals. It is extremely gratifying to see our staff work with our students to help them grow throughout their middle school years and it is exciting to see our students become successful young adults.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    I love the fact that no two days are the same. As principals, we have the opportunity to be involved in a variety of different activities during each day and throughout the school year. Whether it be observing teaching and learning in the classroom, helping to establish new initiatives, working with individual students or families, or attending extracurricular events to support our students, we as principals are very fortunate to play a part in so many of the activities that occur within our buildings and districts.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    Education has changed so much recently that it is almost impossible to predict the future. Since we live in a society where information is so easily accessible, I think that we as educators have a great responsibility to help students use that information in positive ways. Teaching students skills such as collaboration and communication and traits such as empathy and understanding will help our young people take the information that is available to them and use it in ways that make society a better place for current and future generations.


     

  • Penguins MVP Patricia Nolan, Principal of West Allegheny Middle School

    Patricia Nolan

    Principal of West Allegheny Middle School

    West Allegheny School District

    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    At West Allegheny Middle School, we ALWAYS put students first! All decisions revolve around the best interest of our students and how we can best grow, serve, and support our students!

    What do you love about being a principal?
    I love having the privilege of being in a school setting every day interacting with students, staff, and parents and trying to ensure a caring school climate and environment where students, staff, and parents feel welcomed, supported, included, and appreciated.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    I feel the future of education is rooted in connecting to students and how they learn. Innovation, greater, more strategic inclusion and infusion of technology into teaching practices will be key. However, caring and connecting with our students, as people first, will always remain as the foundational building block.


  • Penguins MVP Brian Werner, Principal of Dormont Elementary School

    Brian Werner  

    Principal of Dormont Elementary School

    Keystone Oaks School District

    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    I want everyone to know that Dormont Elementary is a wonderful school, within a wonderful community! Our staffulty is committed to providing our students with engaging learning experiences, while also building lasting relationships and connections. Our caregivers and community are vital to Dormont's success. Their commitment to our child(ren)'s learning is remarkable, and it is demonstrated through volunteerism and continuous support for our school. Our students are top-notch! They embody our five school expectations of being safe, responsible, respectful, kind, and here within their daily practice. Their commitment to their learning, and their futures, is something special.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    Where do I begin? Working alongside our staffulty, caregivers, and community is beyond worthwhile. I enjoy working alongside these amazing individuals as we empower our students to be contributing members of their community. I also truly love watching our students grow through engagement. Seeing their smiling faces when they earn a "gold key" for demonstrating one of our five expectations is heartwarming. Seeing the pride in their eyes when they reach a personal or academic goal is inspiring. Seeing their excitement when they walk down the hallways makes me know they love being at their school. I continue to strive to impact those around me, as they have impacted me.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    We are laying the foundation for our students to have amazing futures! From personalized learning to empowering our students, we continue to provide our students with learning opportunities that will challenge them to be the best they can be. With a focus on career-readiness skills (like collaboration, teamwork, and perseverance), we continue to enrich our students today for tomorrow's expectations.


  • Pens MVP Kelly Gustafson, Principal of Wexford Elementary School

    Kelly Gustafson
    Principal of Wexford Elementary School
    Pine-Richland School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    Wexford Elementary School welcomes our kindergarten through third grade students into a literacy rich environment where children ask, "Can I recommend a book to you?" as part of our regular interactions. Our daily video announcements highlight a theme or learning activity focused on book talks and connections to spark imagination or curiosity inside and outside of the classroom. Children are encouraged to share their reading excitement through new hobbies as authors & illustrators or researchers of a non-fiction interest area. Surrounding our children with access to read and listen to quality literature from the shelves of our school library and within our classrooms is a priority at Wexford Elementary School.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    The role of the principal leader affords me the opportunity to build relationships with children and their families beginning when they enter kindergarten until they grow into their third-grade year. Watching Pine-Richland's youngest learners skip into school because they want to share their joy of being included in a space where children know that 143 is our code for I Love You, makes my principal heart happy every day. Connecting Wexford faculty and our Pine-Richland families to a common goal for the development of our future community stakeholders is my true North on our compass.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    Children enter elementary school with an eagerness to ask questions and to invent solutions for themselves as they navigate educational routines and invite others to collaborate in their development of learning. They push and pull the boundaries of learning as they discover success and failure. Models for instruction and learning must differentiate skill development according to the relevance of the connections children are making within their educational pathway. I am hopeful they will continue to be agents of change through their interests and solution-seeking motivation. Children will thrive in the formal and informal learning climates when they are given agency to have a voice in their future and feel loved.


  • Pens MVP Michael Calvert, Principal of South Allegheny Elementary School

    Michael Calvert
    Principal of South Allegheny Elementary School
    South Allegheny School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    South Allegheny Elementary is a wonderful place to grow and learn. Our teachers are dedicated to ensuring that all students reach their greatest potential. The PTA is over 200 members strong and partners with our staff to create a memorable school experience for our children. Right now, our school is undergoing construction that will result in a new STEM learning center where teachers and students will focus on STEM+C activities. I am very fortunate and humbled to be a member of the South Allegheny community.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    Everything! The best part of being a principal is interacting with students! I am here to serve the students and support the staff to provide high-quality education in a nurturing environment, which brings me joy.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    Most people would say that the future of education is technology. While technology advancements accelerate changes in what and how we teach, I disagree that it is the main future focus. The future of education is a focus on staff learning. With such a rapidly changing landscape, the people who lead schools, design instruction, and prepare students for life and the workforce must be adaptable, have a growth mindset, and be learners themselves. When school leaders, teachers, and other staff members grow in their practice, they can best impact student success and prepare them to thrive in a changing world.


  • Pens MVP Kylee Crawshaw, Associate Principal of Montour High School

    Kylee Crawshaw
    Associate Principal of Montour High School
    Montour School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    Montour High School, or affectionately known as The Hilltop, is special because of its people. I am #MontourProud that our students, faculty, staff, families, board members, and community amplify our students' wants and needs first and above all else.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    I love being a principal because I get to help unlock the potential of so many young people and those I'm fortunate enough to work with. I strive to reflect positivity and growth through my servant leadership. As a principal, I'm constantly learning something new, all while empowering others to do the same, which is tremendously powerful and humbling.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    The future of education should be even more mindful of what student-centered and future-focused means for our students and the systems we are in or lead to. It will be limitlessly dynamic to serve the needs of our students, communities and connected world.


  • Pens MVP Michael Hower, Principal of Fox Chapel Area High School

    Michael Hower, Ed.D.
    Principal of Fox Chapel Area High School
    Fox Chapel Area School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    I would like others to know that we are a very diverse and unique school community with amazing students, staff, and community members! I am blessed to work with all of them.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    I love to work directly with the students and staff to create new programs, ways for people to connect, and experiences that help move us forward as a school.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    In my opinion, the future education will be very dynamic. With the changes in technology, connectivity, and access to information, schools will have to be willing to adapt to continually serve the needs of students.


  • Pens MVP Susie Bjalobok, Principal of Peebles Elementary School

    Susie Bjalobok
    Principal of Peebles Elementary School
    North Allegheny School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    Peebles Elementary is a school that cares so very much about others. We have a “YOU MATTER” message that we foster to all the students, staff and families. PES has kind kids who treat others with so much respect. I am so proud to be a part of this school. I am the PROUD PAL for sure.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    THE KIDS!!!! The best part of my job is being around the students, staff and families in my community. They ALL MATTER SO MUCH TO ME.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    Education just needs to continue to focus on meeting the needs of all kids!!!!


  • Pens MVP R.J. Long, Principal of Northgate Middle School

    R.J. Long
    Principal of Northgate Middle School
    West Allegheny School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    Northgate's mascots are the Flames and the Phoenix, which is a magnificent creature that was a symbol of renewal and rebirth in Greek & Egyptian mythology. Northgate is going through a renewal and rebirth right now, and it is an exciting time in our community. We are a small, proud, diverse community with a significant amount of need, but we are also incredibly determined to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to meet the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of our students. Because we are small, we create deep relationships with our students and their families through our advisory program. Our students feel connected to adults in the school because our faculty cares so deeply about our students.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    Being a principal has made me a better person than I was when I was a classroom teacher. I am more empathetic. I listen more. I enjoy every day being different and dynamic. No two days are alike! I love the challenges that come with the job, including constantly brainstorming solutions to issues that arise, leading important dialogue with teachers in team meetings, supporting struggling students and their families, and working to make the school a better place each and every day. Being a principal pushes me out of my comfort zone daily, and that means every day I'm growing and learning -- which makes me better able to help and support Northgate Middle School teachers, students, and families.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    The future of education is uncertain, to be quite honest. With the significant teacher and administrator shortage that we are currently experiencing, and the scrutiny that public education is facing in many places, education is faced with many challenges about how it will sustain itself. Additionally, education must keep ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing world. Schools must prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist, which means that education in schools must always be growing, changing, and evolving to meet the demands and needs of our students. When you have all of this uncertainty and all of this change, we need people entering the profession who understand this and are willing to take on these challenges and opportunities.


  • Pens MVP Melissa Wagner, Principal of McKee Elementary School

    Melissa Wagner
    Principal of McKee Elementary School
    West Allegheny School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    McKee Elementary functions as a school family. We care for and support one another to ensure ALL feel a sense of belonging and valued for who they are and what they bring each day. We celebrate collective and individual accomplishments. We come together to solve problems to strengthen our school culture and climate.

    What do you love about being a principal?
    What I absolutely love about being a principal, the reasons I work so hard and what keeps me motivated are the students and the teachers. To be able to wake up every day and go to “school” where you are surrounded by children who look forward to seeing you and who depend on you to encourage, protect, care for, motivate, and grow is an amazing experience. The daily smiles, the hugs, and having the very fortunate opportunity to watch them learn and grow year after year in our classrooms fuels my energy and passion for education and the complex work of being a principal. I get to work and learn with some of the most amazing teachers and people year after year. The way we come together each day, strengthening our collective efforts to ensure ALL our students succeed, fuels my purpose and deepens my commitment to not only being a school leader but growing leaders within our school.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    One thing we learned over the past few years is the future is full of surprises and can throw curve balls. Yet it is important to look at the past to prepare for the future. In education, it will be critical to develop and prepare our students to grow into citizens who are resilient, adaptable, and able to work through and learn from challenges and in ever-changing situations. Our future will be more in need of global-minded people who are willing to look outside of their own experiences and culture to solve complex worldly problems. We need to make teaching a desirable professional field. Teachers and schools need more resources to better serve the students and families with dire needs. The teacher shortage will have a heavy impact on the qualified and prepared workforce of the future. This current issue can possibly dictate the future of education.


  • Penguins MVP Eric Hewitt; Principal of Riverview High School, Riverview School District2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    Eric Hewitt
    Principal of Riverview High School
    Riverview School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?
    We are small but mighty!

     
    What do you love about being a principal?
    The ability to work with everyone—students, teachers, parents, and the community—to make Riverview better.
     
    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    Partnerships with the workforce. We need to have the conversations with employers so we can better prepare students for the jobs that will be out there. Whether that is at the end of their senior year or after post-secondary education, we need to understand what is next.
     

  • Penguins MVP Paula Heinzman; Principal of the Schiller STEAM Academy (PPS); Selected as a 2023 Pittsburgh Pens MVP

    Paula Heinzman
    Principal of Schiller STEAM Academy,
    Pittsburgh Public School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?

    Schiller is an amazing place to work and learn. We have an awesome culture and the majority of our staff are all in for our kids. To say that we work hard here is an understatement. We really come here and do whatever needs done for our students and their families.
     
    What do you love about being a principal?
    I love watching my students learn and grow! I get so fulfilled when I see a child grasping a concept or feeling some sense of accomplishment. There is a sense of pride that comes with having a school where students can come and have a great experience on a daily basis.
     
    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    WOW! What an amazing question! EVER-CHANGING! I think that there are going to be things happening in education that no one would have ever thought possible. Once you believe that our students have the ability, the sky is the limit!
     

  • Penguins MVP Anthony Mooney, Ed.D.; Principal of Quaker Valley Middle School; Selected as a 2023 Pittsburgh Pens MVP

    Anthony Mooney, Ed.D.
    Principal of Quaker Valley Middle School,
    Quaker Valley School District
    2023 Pittsburgh Penguins MVP

    What is something positive that you want others to know about your school?

    The teachers and the entire support staff at Quaker Valley Middle School go out of their way to ensure that our students are successful, happy, and healthy. I am so fortunate to work alongside so many professionals who go above and beyond for their students. It is honestly awe-inspiring and heartwarming to experience firsthand!

    What do you love about being a principal?
    I love being a principal for many reasons! I enjoy building relationships with students, families, teachers, support staff members, and the larger school community. These relationships help to create a learning ecosystem that has a direct impact on student outcomes. Another aspect of the principalship that I enjoy is motivating, supporting, and empowering students and teachers to achieve greatness -- however they define it. Ultimately, I want to leverage the principal position so that I can make a positive impact on those around me.

    In your opinion, what is the future of education?
    I believe that the future of K-12 education is bright! Through personalized learning experiences, blended learning options that integrate in-person and online learning experiences, the meaningful and thoughtful use of technology to enhance thinking and learning, and a serious focus on future-ready skills (such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking), educators are preparing today's children for a limitless future.